Archive for the ‘Hurricane Ike’ Tag

Galveston Sunrise

Dawn’s soothing glow heals,

caressing Galveston bay;

the sun’s rays warming

~~~

waves that wash ashore

now a gentle tide, rising

roll back out to sea

~~~

The storm came and took

the lives who sought not to leave

Ike is gone now too.

__________________

Hurricane Ike made landfall on September 14, 2008 at Galveston, Island Texas. It was the third costliest hurricane to the U.S. mainline next to hurricanes Katrina and Ivan. The death toll was 195 with 23 still missing when reported. In October 2009 my husband and I flew down to Galveston to vacation. We rented a car and stayed in the Commodore Hotel on Seawall Blvd. where I took the above photo here and the one used in the story recently posted, The Search (Parts 1 & 2) from our hotel balcony four stories up. We were able to get a good view of the gulf coast through our binoculars and camera lens. While in Galveston for 9 days we walked around town, visited a number of scenic places, toured museums, and drove east and west along the coastline. Wherever we went we could see some of the reconstruction and repair still going on in the aftermath of Ike. The trip and the many photos we took there inspired me to do the story (The Search), and the poem above in honor of those victims who lost their lives, and those never found. The research I did and videos I watched gave me more insight into the massive, unbelievable  strength of these hurricanes. There are some good videos on Youtube of hurricane Ike with incredible footage of the storm as it happened.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)


The Search, (Part 2)

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The Search (Part 2)

Brian nodded. His nerves were on edge, the anxiety evident on his face.

“I was working with a relief agency after Ike hit to help look for those unaccounted for. It was so chaotic. The death count was rising and there were so many that did not evacuate, a lot missing. During the following days there were victims being rescued from roof tops, inside demolished buildings, boats, clinging to things washed up.  We found Paul floating on a piece to someone’s beach house. He was taken to a hospital. He couldn’t remember much of anything. He was in shock. No one knew where he lived, where to find any records, family, anything on him. So, he was a mystery to everyone. The agency hooked him up with a therapist and he has been seeing one ever since. I lived alone, worked in Houston, and wanted to help so offered to let him come live with me while he was in recovery. He has tried to get a job, get his footings, but it has been a slow process. He uses the name, Paul.”

Brian nodded. “Maybe, he remembered only his middle name, but couldn’t remember how to spell it… so used the name ‘Paul’ instead, since you said he had some kind of amnesia. Right?” Brian desperately looked for every logical reason to believe ‘Paul’ was Jed. His hands were shaking, and his heart was racing as he tried to prepare himself, in case he was wrong.

“Yes, maybe that’s it.” Billy replied.

Moments later, ‘Paul’ came out. His hair was shorter, his tan had faded away, and he had gained some weight. But, Brian knew without a doubt that the young man who stood before him, looking so confused was his son, Jed. The deep blue eyes that once reflected life and energy showed no response or recognition  to seeing his father. Brian wanted more than anything to embrace him and assure him that everything would be alright, but held back. He did not want to confuse him, so was content with a hand shake.

“Hi, Paul. My name is Brian Matthews. I…knew you…when you were younger… and thought we could get to know each other… again. I brought some pictures  along for you to see. There are some of you with…your family… one of you and me, and…your…Jenna. Here is one of… Griffin, your dog. What a huge and clumsy mongrel he was. Trying to get him up into the back of the SUV proved almost impossible whenever we took him places. He died later when he got sick and…well, you and him were great pals.” At times Brian caught himself, overcome with emotion,  laughing one moment, wiping a tear the next, remembering Jed and Griffin together.

There was an occasional nod or smile, but Jed said nothing. Brian then pulled out some old toys saved from Jed’s childhood. His eyes would blink or stare, lingering for a moment on something.

When Brian handed him a little U.S. Coastguard Lego’s boat Jed took the boat, instinctively pulled the pieces apart, and tried to reassemble the Lego pieces with the little ‘captain’ inside it. But, the pieces would not fit back together easily. He turned pieces around trying to force them into place, but became impatient throwing it on the floor. “It’s… broken… doesn’t work right.”

Brian smiled. Jed always threw his toys on the floor as a child when he became frustrated playing with Lego’s toys.

“That’s OK. We’ll fix it later.”

Jed blurted out, “It can’t be fixed! Broken… all of it. The water…took it.”

Brian looked over at Billy. He nodded, smiling, his expression hopeful.

“What did the water take, Paul? Where were you? Do you remember?” Brian asked.

Jed shrugged.

Brian handed Jed a little surfboard next. “Do you remember this, Paul?” It was the look in his eyes and the expression on his face that sparked something Brian had not seen before.   A memory?

“Gone. Broken, too. The water came, and took my… me.” He stared down at the floor at the Lego boat lying in pieces. His eyes rested on Brian, staring as if searching for something familiar. “I…it was dark. Storm warnings…the water… I went…took my…board…” Jed held the little surfboard in his hand and began to climb pretend waves up and down gesturing with his hand like a little boy at play. He stopped, looked down again at the boat, quiet, contemplative.

Brian picked up the boat, snapped the pieces slowly, methodically back together as he watched Jed’s face, and handed it back to Jed. “Do you remember a boat like this, Paul? Do you remember getting in one after the storm?”

Jed squinted, furrowed lines forming on his forehead as if trying to form his thoughts.

Brian knew it was a gamble, but, he would take whatever came, even if it was small or painful, and move forward one step at a time. They would get there.

Slowly, a word here, a phrase there, a sentence, and things spilled out in pieces like the Lego boat, until Brian and Billy learned what happened to him the day Ike hit. Jed made progress, but still had a long ways to go. He would not be returning to Texas A&M, but instead be coming home to Dallas with Brian where they would find him another therapist who would work with him, hopefully through a complete recovery.

~~~~~~~~~~

It was now September 13, 2009, one year after hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast. Galveston was still under reconstruction and repair, but the conference center was packed for the anniversary memorial service dedicated to those who lost their lives, and those still missing. Brian, Jenna, and Billy sat listening as the families of victims and survivors came forward to share their story, and to thank the members and volunteers of agencies who helped in their rescue. Jed walked to the podium.

“My name is Jedidiah Raul Matthews. A year ago today I took my surfboard and swam out into the sea. I thought I had time before Ike hit to catch a few good waves. I wanted a good ride. But, it soon turned ugly. I had no control. My board flipped me and I was sucked under. The impact and thrust of the waves knocked me around. I tried to hang on, but lost my board. It was gone. Everything was ripped apart, or floating; buildings, houses, even boats. I was alone in an angry sea. I tried to swim back, but couldn’t. The waves carried me further away whenever I tried. Something hard hit me, knocked me out. It was probably my surfboard on its way out to sea.” There was a ripple of laughter heard in the audience. “I grabbed onto something big floating by, and held on, until rescued. Because of a few people in my life who did not give up the search I am here alive to share my story, and to thank them. Thank you Billy, and to all those who helped in my rescue. Thank you dad for… finding me.”

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

The Search


The Search (Part 1)

Galveston Island, Texas, January, 2008

Brian stood on the balcony of the Commodore watching waves roll gently into shore. A seagull perched atop the light pole as if searching for something or someone, too. Two lone silhouettes came into view through his binocular lens as they strolled leisurely along the quiet beach on Seawall Blvd. He adjusted his lens to get a better look, but could see nothing in them that looked familiar.

He’d taken a leave from the company to continue his search. Faces in crowds, shops and hangouts, news reports, phone and address directories, Internet records: all produced nothing that led Brian to believe Jed was still alive, but nothing either had proven him dead. Showing strangers a picture of his son, leaving flyers, talking to those who knew their local clientele came up empty too. Hope diminished each day as time dragged on. Still, he gave every contact his business card with his cell phone number.

It had been months since hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast on September 13. Galveston received the worst damage with the largest number of reported deaths and missing. At times the surf washed up debris on shore that had been swept out to sea during the storm, even the remains of a body as the sea gave up its dead. He’d given the authorities all the information he could, even recent pictures of Jed that would aid them in the search, or identifying his remains if it came to that. One photo showed Jed standing beside his surfboard with the image of a huge orange sun hovering over a turquoise sea and a shark fin protruding up from its depths. Was there one waiting for Jed that day? Or was it the tenacious, unrelenting jaws of the sea that swallowed him, instead?

According to Jed’s friends at Texas A&M he went out alone in the water that night before it came to shore. There had been hurricane warnings and alerts posted for the entire gulf coast days earlier.  Jed didn’t have the sense to get out when evacuations had begun. No one saw him after that day. He was always chasing after the next big wave or adventure. His friends knew when to quit, find shelter or evacuate. But, not Jed. He would swim out, climb the swells to surging, frothy whitecaps, and ride them back to shore. It was to him, “the perfect ride.”

Brian’s thoughts drifted like the incoming tide when his cell phone rang, and he realized he was still holding the binoculars staring at nothing now but the open sea. The sun had risen to its place in the sky, the darkness less pervading. “Hello?”

“Mr. Mathews?” the voice said.

“Yes. Who’s this?”

“My name is Walt Gibbons. I’m a bartender at O’Reilly’s Grill on Seawall Blvd. I wasn’t working when you were in, but saw the flyer you left here. I have a friend who rooms with a guy that looks like the one in the photo of your son…”

“Yes, go on. Do you know him? Where can I find him?”

“I met him once, Billy’s roommate, that is. But don’t know him well. He came in here with Billy when I was working. He said his name was Paul, or something like that. I called Billy and told him about the photo of your son, and asked if it could be him.”

“What did he say?”

“Billy said Paul doesn’t talk much about that day, can’t remember it, or anything before that, where he lived, or what he did; says he doesn’t talk about his past, or having any family. Kind of weird. I have to admit at first I was kind of suspicious of you when I heard that. I mean, who would just forget things about themselves like that, you know? I wondered if he was running from someone or scared. But, then Billy told me something else about Paul…”

“What? What did he say?”

“Well, it was about him having suffered some kind of amnesia or concussion during the storm.”

“How did Billy meet him?”

“Billy has an apartment in Houston, but came down after the hurricane as a volunteer to help with recovery and locate the missing. Paul was one of those found after the storm.”

Brian hurriedly scribbled down the address and phone number Walt gave him. When he called the number, “Billy” answered. Brian identified himself, told him about the search for his missing son, and a meeting was arranged.

He pulled into a parking lot at the address given him. He knew better than to get his hopes up, and be disappointed again. He had photos, even some sentimental things of Jed’s with him. He picked up the backpack and walked up a flight of steps to the second floor entrance of the apartment building and walked down to # 9, and buzzed the apartment.

Billy answered the door. “Come in Mr. Matthews. I don’t know if Paul is your son, but when you told me a little about him and his obsession for surfing, things made more sense. He’s in his room watching TV. But, before I get him I think you should know some things, first. Have a seat.”

___________________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Note: I am breaking up my usual posting schedule for the continued story, The Informant’s Agenda to introduce this new fiction story I have recently completed which will be posted in three parts. It gives readers an opportunity to read some newly created material. This story, ‘The Search’ is fiction, my characters and plot all fiction as well. But Hurricane Ike was real, one of the costliest ones to hit the Gulf Coast in lives and property lost, next of course to Katrina. The above photo is one I took while on a vacation to Galveston Island, Texas in October, 2009.

The Informant’s Agenda will return with the next chapter following the postings of the story, The Search. I welcome all feedback and comments on either and all my fiction and posts and helps me to know what my readers are enjoying, what they are not, what kinds of posts they like best, whether it be fiction, poetry, photos or prose, or any other comments to things posted on my blog. Thanks all for reading, commenting and following. All is appreciated.

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